Friday, May 27, 2016

Youth in Decline Week: Dream Tube

Rebekka Dunlap's Dream Tube is Youth in Decline's third book (Rav by Mickey Zacchilli and Snackies by Nick Sumida were the first two). The three stories in this collection explore the tropes of fantasy, dreams and science-fiction with an eye that's at various points both whimsical and horrible. With figures that are stylized and distorted in a manner that's not unlike that of Dash Shaw, Dunlap's stories always involve coupling at their cores, and the ways in which couples fall apart or get torn apart. "Brooklyn Witch Treats" is the funniest story, as it doesn't follow a single character as it does a scene, transposing Brooklyn hipsters into a supernatural setting in a remarkably effortless fashion. Casting a spell in a bathroom is akin to doing lines of coke (only the witch was in the wrong bathroom). Various monsters and magical creatures dance in the club, while a hooded man winds up sleeping with the witch, who devours him when she asks him if he wants to see her void. The second half of the story concerns a voyeuristic creature with an eye for a head (an appropriate fetish) who watches eye-BDSM porn ("Bad eyes don't get solution!") and has a crush on a beautiful witch from afar. It's implied that his insinuating gaze disrupts her own attempts at "broadcasting", a wide form of expression. This is less a narrative than a loosely-connected series of events that creates a tone and illustrates a particular aesthetic.

"Cities And Spaces And" is about a couple living in a remote location and a dream she had. In the dream, they were living in a city, they didn't know each other, and the city was under attack. Essentially, she created a romance for them that didn't exist in their daily lives, one that included danger, daring, new sights, togetherness but also a certain amount of distance in terms of intimacy. Dunlap's stylizations are especially vivid here, emphasizing angles and grids set against inexplicable shapes. It's wish fulfillment and a reaction against their present living arrangement, where even the man's hair is rigidly stylized.

"Colony" is about paranoia and the problematic nature of colonization, as a scientist is increasingly concerned with the ethical implications about the presence of her team, especially as initially innocent exploration turned into something far different. It's also about friendship and betrayal, with imagery and ideas not unlike 2001: A Space Odyssey, as the lead character tries to anticipate and outsmart the forced arrayed against her. It's also a story about guilt, as her friend who came with her on the interstellar journey wound up being a sort of sacrifice as he merged with the alien forces. Dunlap is remarkably skilled as both illustrator and cartoonist, and I think the similarity to Shaw's work may come in a mutual interest in manga. What's especially interesting about Dunlap's work is that she wrote three stories with very different concerns and tones using roughly the same visual techniques, but the way she arranged images and wrote each story led to wildly different tones. To be sure, there are funny asides and eye pops in each story, but the first story's anarchy, the second story's intimacy and the third story's paranoia led to wildly different reading experiences.

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